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High-speed access heats up

Fast Net access providers Road Runner and Covad Communications announce deals to bring cable modems and DSL to more customers.

    The race to provide high-speed access to the Net heated up today, with cable and DSL (digital subscriber line) players announcing further availability for their services.

    Time Warner's Road Runner today announced that it will be providing high-speed cable access to the Internet in Bend, Oregon, by partnering with Bend Cable Communications.

    Cable subscribers will have to pay $44.95 per month for the service, including the $10 monthly cable rental. Noncable customers will have to pay $54.95. All will have to spend $129.95 to install the system.

    Bend is the latest city to partner with Road Runner. The rollout for cable modems, which provide access to the Net at higher speeds than traditional dial-up connections, has been slow but steady. About 35,000 customers have signed up for service and Road Runner today is available to 2 million homes nationwide.

    In a separate announcement today, Covad Communications, which provides DSL connectivity to Internet service providers, and AboveNet, which provides connectivity to companies that conduct the majority of their business online (such as Marimba and RealNetworks), formed a partnership.

    The two companies are teaming up to provide access and bandwidth to ISPs in San Jose, California.

    AboveNet will provide bandwidth to Covad. In return, Covad will offer access to DSL services, which provide high-speed connection to the Internet via copper wires.

    "We're teaming up essentially to make it easier, faster, and more profitable for ISPs to get service from Covad so they can offer DSL to their customers," said AboveNet executive Joel Barker.

    Many see high-speed access as the "killer app" that will allow many more customers to view flashy graphics and other multimedia elements on the Net.